I have always had an interest in the applied aspects of zoology and graduated from the University of Leeds, U.K. in 1975 having obtained a degree in Agricultural Zoology.

At that time the aquaculture industry was in its infancy within the UK but was showing the signs of rapid expansion. I therefore took the opportunity to specialise in the interactions between parasites and lower vertebrates and undertook doctoral training at the University of Sunderland, UK. In 1979 I arrived at Keele University and joined the parasitology research group as a post-doctoral researcher and was appointed to a lectureship in 1986. Since then I have developed an extensive research profile in the area of fish\disease interactions and have published widely in this area.  

In 1991 I established “Keele Water” an environmental consultancy specialising in freshwater and fisheries. The laboratory carries out fish disease diagnosis under Section 30 of the Freshwater Fish Diseases Act of 1975 and 1983 and the “Buyer Beware Policy”. This has been extended to include the production of environmental impact assessments, a requirement in most large scale developments. I am a member of the British Society for Parasitology, European Association of Fish Pathologists, Fisheries Society of the British Isles and Insitute of Fisheries Managers.

In addition, I have also co-ordinated a Marie Curie Training Network which incorporates nine research European institutes including three industrial partners. I am also a Fellow of the Society of Biology in the UK.

Research and scholarship

book1 Research Group

Post-graduate Researchers

  • Ms. Sarah Harris
  • Ms. Nawroz Omar Kareem

Current research projects

1) Marie Curie Seventh Framework Programme, Initial Training Network

Training network on protective immune modulation in warm water fish by feeding glucans (NEMO)

NEMO is a multi-disciplinary project comprising six European research Institutes/Universities and three industrial partners and is co-ordinated by Prof. D. Hoole, Keele University, UK. The scientific aim of the Network is to establish optimum protocols for the use of ß glucans in the strategic improvement of fish health. This will entail the formulation of ß glucans to assess how they affect the innate immune response of the fish and how glucans can be used as an immuno-stimulant in the warm water aquaculture and aquaria sectors. NEMO will improve fish welfare generally and also assist in disease control and vaccine development. The training aim of the Network is to form a nucleus of 16 young scientists by training-through-research and by provision of complementary skills.

The Fish Diseases/Immunology Section at Keele University has five EU research projects :

a) Analysis of the modulation of carp cell survival by glucans

The utilisation of molecular, cell biology and pathological techniques to study the modulation of apoptosis by ß-glucans. Immuno-competent cells and carp leucocyte cell lines are being used to determine the effect of glucans and pathogenic organisms e.g. KHV, Aeromonas hydrophila, SVCV on cell death.

b) The effect of glucan/infection on innate acute phase proteins

Acute phase proteins are an important component of the immune response of vertebrates. The effect of glucan and pathogenic organisms e.g. KHV, Aeromonas hydrophila, Ich (white spot) on the profile of a range of innate proteins e.g. C-Reactive Protein, complement is being studies. Local intestinal responses are also being studies to establish how glucan affects the expression and activity of innate immune proteins.

c) The expression of genes encoding for innate immune proteins that are stimulated by glucan.

The expression of genes encoding innate immune proteins that are stimulated by glucan and viral, bacterial and parasitic pathogen, is being elucidated utilising a range of molecular biological techniques. In addition, studies on the molecular structure of these proteins are planned using techniques such as crystallization and X ray diffraction.

d) Formulation of new immunostimulants in aquaculture (Narwoz Kareem in collaboration with Dr. Mark Skidmore; sponsored by the Kurdistan Ministry of Higher Education)

This research project is a development of the previous mentioned NEMO EU ITN and seeks to develop a new form of carbohydrate by determining the activity of the new formulated compound on a range of immune parameters in carp. Initial investigations involve screening new formulations in a range of fish cell lines and pronephric cells. These will be extended to in vivo investigations to ascertain the suitability of the compounds as an addaitive to fish feed and/or adjuvant in vaccine production.

e) Effects of different beta-glucans on fish microflora : immunomodulation and disease protection. (Sarah Harris, sponsored by the The Fisheries Society of the British Isles)

This project will determine the most beneficial formulation of beta glucan as an immunomodulator and to establish the role bacterial microflora in its interaction with the immune responses in fish and subsequent fish health. The project utilises common carp (Cyprinus carpio) as a model species which an important fish in wild, aquaculture and ornamental situations (i.e. koi carp). Whilst carp is the model of choice, results obtained will be transferable to all fish species and cyprinids in particular. A range of biochemical and molecular biological techniques are being utilised to characterise bacteria involved and ascertain associated immune responses.

apoptosis 2) Apoptosis in the immune system of carp (Cyprinus carpio) (In collaboration with Professor G. Williams, Keele University.)

Apoptosis is now recognised as essential mechanism in the regulation of the mammalian immune system and may have a role both in physiological and pathological processes. Very few studies have been carried out on the process in fish. Apoptosis is being investigated in immuno-competent cells in carp using a variety of techniques including molecular. The latter involves studies on those genes e.g. bcl2 known to be associated with apoptosis in mammals.

3) Acute phase proteins e.g. CRP in the carp (Cyprinus carpio) (In collaboration with Prof. T. Greenhough and Dr A.K. Shrive, Keele University.)

The serum pentraxins e.g. CRP are members of a conserved family of cyclic oligomeric proteins, homologues of which have been found in mammals, fish, amphibians and the phylogenetically ancient horseshoe crab Limulus polyphemus. In humans, CRP plays a pivotal and complex role in the immune response and is the classical acute-phase reactant product in response to tissue damage and inflammation, circulating levels rising by up to 1000 fold within a few hours of infection or injury. The presence, characterisation, structure and role of pentraxins carp are being determined using a variety of biological techniques and protein crystallography.

4) Affects of pollutants on the immune response of carp (Cyprinus carpio)

This study is an extension of the above in that the immune response of fish to disease will be affected by water conditions. Surface freshwater systems, which are being increasingly exploited by the aquaculture industry, are at risk of contamination by a wide range of toxic chemicals. These toxicants, which include heavy metals and ammonia, originate either accidentally or deliberately, from industrial chemical processes, agriculture and mining and domestic wastes. Many, such as ammonia, are present in sub-lethal concentrations in freshwater systems whilst others, for example cadmium, are categorised as highly dangerous by the EEC. There have been several investigations on the effects of pollution on the immune response and susceptibility of fish to bacterial pathogens. However, few studies have been carried out relating the abnormal affects of pollution on the immune system of wild and farmed freshwater fish and how exposure affects the susceptibility to parasitic infection.

All the studies above are in collaboration with the Environment Agency. UK.

Further details (CAEP Homepage)


My teaching duties include teaching in all years of the Biology degree at Keele University. In particular I contribute immunological themes to a number of modules and, in addition, present a final year module on Applied Fish Biology. I also contribute to the MSc course Vector Biology and Molecular Parasitology, and the MSc in Scientific Research Training, the latter of which I am Director. I also serve as Director of Post-graduate Taught Courses in the Faculty of Natural Sciences at Keele University. I have over many years been the organiser of the Biology Field Course held in North Wales.


School of Life Sciences,
Huxley Building,
Keele University,
Tel: +44 (0) 1782 734414